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  Accessing, Querying, and Presenting Cyber Security Knowledge: a Tree-based Learning and Teaching Approach

   Faculty of Engineering, Computing and the Environment

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Using technology to enhance learning is an important aspect of modern higher education in the UK and elsewhere [1]. With the arrival of the digital Internet age and its rapid advances in web and mobile technologies, the possibilities for managing knowledge involving the storing, publishing, accessing, querying and presenting of information digitally offer tremendous opportunities that are currently under-developed in the use for the classroom. When considering digital knowledge management, the organisation of knowledge as hierarchical trees (knowledge trees) is a natural approach with numerous benefits [2]. For example, cyber security knowledge specified in a recent UK national initiative, the Cybersecurity Body of Knowledge (CyBOK), is available in form of knowledge trees [3]. Hierarchical trees are equivalent to structured outlines consisting of a heading node and a finite number of children that are structured outlines themselves. Zoomable online outliners [4,5] are emerging tools, providing cloud-based access and storage of textual information in form of hierarchical outlines. They offer an intuitive user interface ideal for improving productivity through focus, task management and brainstorming. This is manifested through a lively community of users expressing their experiences in blogs such as the WorkFlowy blog and the Dynalist community. Using both Zoomable Online Outliners and knowledge trees together yields an innovative learning technology system, enabling cloud-based management and delivery of knowledge trees [6]. This PhD project will investigate this unique and novel combination for learning and teaching in higher education, with a focus on the cyber security subject area.

The overarching aim of the project is to improve the presentation, interaction with and teaching of cyber security knowledge based on the ability to focus by hiding context in different hierarchies, to explore knowledge visually, and to query and extract knowledge easily. A successful completion of the project requires addressing the following scientific objectives:

·        To design a framework for learning and teaching based on knowledge trees and zoomable online outliners, with a focus on the cyber security subject area.

·        To design and implement learning technology tools, assisting in the teaching of knowledge tree-based learning materials.

·        To evaluate the benefits to student learning and teaching in a range of cyber security subject classes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The methodology for this project will be built on previous work carried out by the supervisory team, extending it to develop a formal learning and teaching methodology comprising of the entire document creation, presentation and maintenance cycle. Learning technology tools will be implemented based on enhancing existing Open Source tools, an existing web-based searchable representation of CyBOK Knowledge Trees [7], and Chrome browser plug-ins for the use of the ZOO tools WorkFlowy[5] and Dynalist [4]. Evaluation of the framework and tools will be based on a statistical analysis of data collected through using student surveys and questionnaires.

Applicants should have at least an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Computer Science or related disciplines. In addition, they should have a good mathematical background, strong web technologies skills, and an interest in education. 

Computer Science (8) Mathematics (25)


[1] Jenkins, M., Browne, T., Walker, R. and Hewitt, R. (2011) The development of technology enhanced learning: findings from a 2008 survey of UK higher education institutions. Interactive Learning Environments, 19(5), pp.447-465.
[2] Muchnik, L. et al. (2007) ‘Self-emergence of knowledge trees: extraction of the Wikipedia hierarchies’, Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics, 76(1 Pt 2), p. 016106.
[3] Rashid, A. et al. (2018) ‘Scoping the Cyber Security Body of Knowledge’, IEEE Security Privacy, 16(3), pp. 96–102.
[4] Dynalist (2022). Available at: (Accessed: 17 January 2022).
[5] WorkFlowy - Organize your brain (2022). Available at: (Accessed: 17 January 2022).
[6] Bailey, Naomi, Denholm-Price, James and Pfluegel, Eckhard (2019) Using Zoomable Online Outliners in STEM education. In: Horizons in STEM Higher Education Conference :
Making Connections and Sharing Pedagogy; 03 - 04 Jul 2019
[7] CyBOK Online (2022). Available at: (Accessed: 17

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